About the AuthorDeborah Peel is a writer, blogger, marketer, mother, lover of big trees and isolated mountain tops. Her passion is writing to build a better world and sharing her backpacking and hiking adventures, one step at a time.

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Day 5 of my JMT super modified journey started at 9:00 a.m., not late, just leisurely! It was tough to tear myself away from the fuzzy antlered young buck that had joined me at Rock Creek. Just a mile up the trail I came upon PCT thru-hiker “Lala,” another YouTube “celebrity.” As she rested on a log after filtering water, she shared how bummed she was to be hiking so slow, going only 1 mile an hour. She was dealing with shortness of breath and said the altitude was kicking her butt on this last bid to finish all 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Commiseration ensued and I shared my need to turn back to regain my health. I got to tell her about the Hike for Harvey, and we shared our thoughts on the need for stronger education and better care for everyone dealing with Alzheimer’s. I was so grateful when she offered her last 900 miles as her Hike for Harvey. Thank you, Lala.
I came to a fork in the trail; Rock Creek left and PCT right, both ending at my planned campsite of Chicken Spring Lake. I veered left and the Rock Creek Trail did not disappoint. I reveled in the lush environment, easily forgetting the challenge of the gradual climb as I traveled along the waterway. I negotiated some high-stepping rocks, but my strength had improved and I was always eager to see what was around the next bend. This was a morning of many breaks just to soak in the magnificence of nature, to lay on a rock slab surrounded by the racing creek waters, and visit with more hikers heading to the JMT.
Mark from Southern California and his trio of guys stopped for a trailside get-to-know-you; hi, how are you, what’s your name, where you from, where you headed? They were eager to hear my turn-around story and offered tips for outwitting my wonky hip in the form of some hip joint exercises and ingesting Great Lakes gelatin (and only Great Lakes!) every day. I practiced the hip exercise and clicked my heels three times, having a good Wizard of Oz laugh before the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Woodsman went west and I went east.
Ranger Chris recommended I take some time at Rock Creek Lake, one of her favorite overnight spots on the trail. The tree cover opened to reveal a huge sunny meadow with the creek meandering through it. There were a couple of tent sites with a bear box to the side and Soldier Mountain towered above the far end of the meadow. It was breathtaking and I moved slowly, turning in circles to absorb the panorama before crossing the creek and traipsing across the meadow to my next ascent.
I’d reached a long series of steep rock steps, the path tighter along the creek which was now choked with vegetation. The cliffside rose on my right and I had my eyes peeled and my ears on alert for wildlife; this seemed a perfect place for a mountain lion or bear siting. I took a single break on a log to rest up and then I pushed on to the top, turning away from the trail to Soldier Lake and taking the Siberian Pass Trail. I’d ascended 1,520’ in the 4.1 miles since Rock Creek.
One more stop to filter water and I entered the glaring pallid landscape of sand and boulders that is Siberian Pass. That’s when one arm of my sunglasses fell off! I labored on, pulling my hat brim low to try to shield my eyes from the bouncing light and scorching sun. It was a long 1.7 mile shuffle through lots of thick sand. At the end, who did I find perched on a log reading a book in the shade? Ranger Chris! Those rangers are always making themselves available, going above and beyond to keep everyone safe on the trail and the trail protected.
The final push up the PCT was 4.5 miles to Chicken Spring Lake. I was counting my steps to keep pressing onward through the sand and rock, just something to keep my mind and body focused on forward momentum.  At last, I turned up the trail to the lake and pitched my tent just as the sun set behind the mountain. Colder temperatures woke me in the middle of the night, even in my 10-degree mummy bag. It felt like winter was coming to take its turn in the Sierra.

Trail tip: Set a series of small goals, even 100 steps at a time, to mentally and physically persevere and succeed when the going gets tough.